|Material Safety Data Sheets
OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (1910.1200) has undergone some changes recently to align it with a global
initiative (GHS) to help manage the risks associated with chemicals in the workplace with the help of the new SDS.
The Globally Harmonized System for Classification and Labeling of Chemicals, otherwise known as the GHS, provides a
common approach for countries to follow when identifying the hazards associated with chemicals and the methods for
providing that information to end-users (such as employers and their employees).
A summary of the major changes for end users are as follows:
• The MSDS goes to SDS;
• SDS will have 16 standard section (OSHA will not enforce sections 12 through 15);
• Standard Pictograms will be required;
• Key words and phrases will be required;
• New GHS labels; and
• Updated employee training will need to be conducted.
Manufacturers, suppliers and distributors still have a duty to provide a copy of a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) to
workplaces, however the format of the MSDS will be different, as will the name. MSDS’s will be referred to as Safety Data
Sheets (SDS) and will contain 16 sections that describe the important information about the chemical. Packaging and
container labels will also be changing in appearance and content.
Chemicals will now be classified into 2 categories.
• “Physical Hazards” such as flammables, explosives, corrosives and
• “Health Hazards” such as acute toxicity, irritant, carcinogen and several others.
Within these sections, the chemical will be assessed to determine how hazardous it is and be given a further classification
from 1-4 (with 1 being the most hazardous and 4 being the least hazardous). This differs from the commonly used NFPA
ratings where ‘4’ was the most hazardous classification.
One of the main changes will be the use of different hazard symbols, called ‘pictograms’. These pictograms will be displayed
on labels and SDS to help convey the main hazards. Pictograms will have a black and white symbol that best represents the
hazard classification, surrounded by a red diamond border. Further to this, labels must display the appropriate signal word,
relevant hazard statements and precautionary statements.
The use of the GHS pictograms, signal words, hazard and precautionary statements will help end-users to understand the
hazards associated with the chemicals they use as each chemical label and SDS will have a similar appearance. This means
that employers and employees required to read and understand the labels and SDS can easily find the relevant information
in a familiar format.
• December 2013- employers must train employees on the updated information;
• June 2015- Manufacturers must have updated all the MSDS to SDS;
• June 2016- End users/ Employers must have all the new SDS in their workplace for their chemicals.
The new GHS system for labels and SDS will be phasing in over the next couple of years until June 2016. During the transition
period, employers can either comply with 1910.1200 (the final standard) or the current standard or both, but there are some
dates that employers need to be aware of.
By December 1st, 2013 employers must train their employees on the new label elements and SDS format. As
manufacturers/suppliers will be providing the new format labels and SDS progressively during the phase-in period, these
will start filtering into US workplaces. It is important that employees are familiar with them so they can understand how to
access important safety information effectively. By June 2016, employers must be using the GHS compliant formatted SDS
and labels and have provided their employees with additional training for any newly identified physical or health hazards.
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